TIRCP grants for Sac region

TIRCP (Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program) grants for 2022 have been announced, with two in the Sacramento region. One is a joint application from Capitol Corridor JPA, City of Sacramento, SACOG, SacRT, and Downtown Railyard Ventures, for work related to Sacramento Valley Station realignment of light rail and buses. The second is for SacRT to purchase eight more modern low floor rail cars.

4. Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA), with the City of Sacramento, Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG), Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT), and Downtown Railyards Venture, LLC (DRV)

Project: Sacramento Valley Station (SVS) Transit Center: Priority Projects
Award: $49,865,000
Total Budget: $95,050,000
Estimated TIRCP GHG Reductions: 156,000 MTCO2 e

This project delivers a set of interrelated projects to introduce better connectivity between modes at the Sacramento Valley Station, as well as redesigned commuter and intercity bus service to the SVS and Downtown Sacramento, that will increase ridership on both trains and buses. Project elements include design of a new bus mobility center to facilitate convenient transfers between modes, realignment of existing light rail tracks and construction of a new platform, construction of a new cycle track on H Street to improve access to the station, and construction of a new pick-up and drop-off loop.

The light rail tracks will be realigned into a loop with a new north-south oriented platform just south of the Steve Cohn Passageway entrance (about 450 feet closer to the rail tracks than currently, and only 100 feet from the future Bus Mobility Center), as well as a new double track alignment from the new platform to the intersection of F Street and 6 th Street. The construction of the new pick up and drop off loop at the station will allow more efficient transfers. The project includes installation of a new storm drain trunk line which will enable new transit-oriented development on key parcels next to SVS.

A new regional bus layover facility will be built in a 2-block portion of X Street between 6th and 8 th Street. The proposed facility will allow buses to layover in Sacramento between runs, improving bus efficiency and reducing vehicle miles traveled, as well as fossil fuel consumption. Initial users of the facility are expected to include El Dorado Transit, Galt-Sacramento SCT Link, Placer Transit, Roseville Transit, San Joaquin RTD, and Yuba-Sutter Transit.

The project will also support the consolidation of downtown regional bus routes, building on the study SACOG completed with 2020 TIRCP funding. Construction of shared stops between SVS and the future Midtown Amtrak San Joaquin and Altamont Corridor Express station will be completed, including the reuse of seventeen bus shelters from the Temporary Transbay Terminal in San Francisco. This component will also complete an unfinished portion of 5 th Street between Railyards Boulevard and North B Street as the most efficient connector for all north area buses to access the freeway to SVS and serve the new state office complex on Richards Blvd. That will provide the connectivity to implement 10 additional bus stops (5 northbound and 5 southbound) north of H Street. Commuter buses operated by Amador Transit, Butte Regional Transit, El Dorado Transit, Soltrans, Galt-Sacramento SCT Link, Placer Transit, Roseville Transit, San Joaquin RTD, Yolobus and Yuba-Sutter Transit will be routed along new shared northbound and southbound routes. This work will complement SacRT’s TIRCP-funded network integration to better integrate its service with intercity rail at both SVS and the future Midtown station.

The project will also purchase and install contactless EMV readers coordinated with the California Integrated Travel Project on rail and bus vehicles to allow fares to be collected through contactless bank cards and mobile wallets.

Ridership at Sacramento Valley Station is also expected to be positively impacted by the city’s housing policies, confirmed with a Pro-Housing designation by HCD, the first city to receive such a designation in the state. A significant amount of housing is expected to be added in the Railyards District, adjacent to the station area.

These plans will be developed in cooperation with many transit partners and agencies throughout the Sacramento region, and with additional technical assistance provided by the California Department of Transportation, in order to ensure integration of regional and interregional capital improvements and service.

Project is expected to be completed by 2025.

Key Project Ratings: Medium-High
Cost per GHG Ton Reduced: Medium-High
Increased Ridership: High
Service Integration: Medium-High
Improves Safety: Medium
Project Readiness: Medium
Funding Leverage:High
Multi-Agency Coordination/Integration: Priority Population Benefits: Medium-High
Housing Co-Benefits: High

15. Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT)

Project: Fleet Modernization
Project Award: $23,600,000
Total Budget: $47,200,000
Estimated TIRCP GHG Reductions: 44,000 MTCO2 e

Purchases 8 new low-floor light rail vehicles (LRVs) to further expand low-floor fleet operations on the light rail system. Over one-third of SacRT’s light rail fleet has reached the end of its useful life, and this investment leverages past TIRCP grants, as well strong local match, to help modernize the fleet.

Low-floor LRVs will produce operational efficiencies by speeding up train times and optimizing boarding convenience and safety along with increased capacity. They also will increase fleet reliability and reduce the number of shorter than planned trains need to be operated on the system. These are significant benefits to persons with disabilities, seniors, parents with strollers, and bicyclists, who will have more boarding options and increased boarding and alighting safety. These improvements are expected to support retaining and attracting new light rail riders, including residents of disadvantaged communities, who make up 30% of the population within SacRT’s service boundary.

The project also supports sustainable housing and land use development while providing meaningful benefits to priority populations by improving mobility and access to transit options. The project complements several TOD/joint development projects underway along the light rail corridors, including a surplus SacRT property near a station that was sold to an affordable housing developer who has entitlements and plans to begin construction on 128 units.

Ridership on SacRT is also expected to be positively impacted by further rollout of integrated contactless payment throughout the light rail and bus system, as well as by the city’s housing policies, confirmed with a Pro-Housing designation by HCD, the first city to receive such a designation in the state.

19 Project completion is expected by 2027.

Key Project Ratings: Medium-High
Cost per GHG Ton Reduced: Medium
Increased Ridership: Medium-High
Service Integration: Medium-High
Improves Safety: High
Project Readiness: High
Funding Leverage: Medium-High
Multi-Agency Coordination/Integration: Priority Population Benefits: High
Housing Co-Benefits: High

Serve on SacRT board

From our friends SacTRU and also noticed by Ridership for the Masses.

Mayor Steinberg is appointing a member of the private sector to the SacRT Board. This seat will replace one of the Sacramento City Council seats currently filled by Councilman Rick Jennings and will serve until the end of 2018. The member of the private sector would have full voting rights as a board member representing the city of sacramento.

Position: Seat A – A member of the private sector with an understanding of the importance of regional transit and public transportation.

Deadline to Apply: March 30, 2018 at 5:00pm

The requirements and selection process are vague, but all are encouraged to apply. We hope many qualified members of the community will apply and represent the needs of riders, and that this seat is not simply filled by an interested member of the business community.

Apply at: http://www.cityofsacramento.org/Clerk/Legislative-Bodies/Boards-and-Commissions. Scroll down to Sacramento Regional Transit Board; no direct link is available.

It has been suggested that the best candidate is a woman of color. There is only one woman serving on the board currently, Linda Budge. There are two people of color, Rick Jennings and Phil Serna, but it is Rick Jennings seat that is being offered (see board list). STAR believes it is important to have someone who is a regular user of the transit system, since the current members range from low transit use to no transit use. Finding that ideal candidate that increases the diversity of the board and better represents riders will be a challenge. If you know that person or those people, please let them know and ask them to serve.

At the same time, STAR encourages everyone to apply. This can be a transformative moment for SacRT, and a strong interest in the position may encourage the other entities, county and cities, to appoint citizens. The board suffers from having politicians as members who are already very busy with their other boards and commissions, and other interests, and don’t pay enough attention to transit. We need someone whose passion is transit that works for everyone.

SacRT and employment

I earlier produced maps showing how SacRT routes related to population density and income (SacRT with income and population). I also wanted to present a map on employment or jobs – where people are going to on the transit system. It took much longer to track down that data, and I needed help from SACOG’s GIS staff. The employment data is from the Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employment-Household Dynamics (LEHD). The data is normalized over area. The map is below, with the SacRT_employment pdf also available.

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SacRT frequency and stops

Two more maps for your viewing pleasure.

The route frequency map classifies routes by their frequency of service, as 12, 15, 20, 30, or 60 minute frequency. Mostly, this means service from 6:00AM to 7:00PM, though it is shorter in a few cases and longer in several cases. Peak only routes are not shown at all. Map below and pdf SacRT_frequency.


The other map is a different view of the routes, shown as stops with quarter mile buffers (one of the often-used walking distance to transit stop criteria, though of course some will walk further, some less, and bicycling distances are much greater. Though at this scale, the map is not significantly more interesting than the simple route map, when zoomed in, there are some very interesting patterns. I see places with stops placed closer than need be, and some places with stops placed too far apart. I’m playing with an alternate version that also shows the population density data, but not ready with that one. Map below, and pdf SacRT_stops. This is one of the first ones that I will try to put up on ArcGIS Online since it really benefits from zooming.


SacRT bus route productivity

Yet another map that may help with understanding the service changes (cuts) proposed by SacRT.

I attended the SacRT board meeting last evening, where there was a presentation by staff on the service changes (agenda item 13), some public comment, and some questions from the board. The gist of the comments and questions seems to be “don’t cut my route,” which is understandable, but doesn’t really advance the discussion much. Mike Barnbaum had the most interesting comments, as he had some innovative ideas for redesigning routes. I briefly presented my design ideas explicated in a previous post (SacRT service changes), and commented that, for the public, the selection of service changes is too much of a black box, input necessary savings, turn the crank, and get out service changes. General Manager Mike Wiley suggested a lot of complex analysis goes into the proposals, addressing in particular questions that were asked by the board about destinations and attractors, however, it isn’t apparent to the public what the criteria are and how they are weighted. Anyway, on with the map.

The map (pdf SacRT_productivity-R2)shows all bus routes for which ridership data is available from the SacRT Monthly Performance Reports page. I selected the last available report, fourth quarter 2015, for weekdays. The variable mapped is “passengers per service hour” which is one of the metrics used to measure productivity, and therefore make decisions about routes, but it is certainly not the only metric. The SacRT minimum goal is 27 passengers, so that is one of the break points, with red and orange routes below that level. Only bus routes are mapped, not light rail, because I am not sure if light rail numbers are directly comparable to bus routes. They are certainly much higher, at least for Blue and Gold, as the trains have a much higher capacity than buses.


I realize that all these maps I’m creating would be more useful if presented all together, in an interface that allows the user to turn them on and off, looking at different combinations. That is a part of ArcGIS that I don’t know yet, so there is perhaps my next learning opportunity.


SacRT routes & population density

SacRT with density and income

Investigating the proposed SacRT service changes (cuts), I identified that routes serving low density areas are a problem. I developed the map below (pdf SacRT_pop-density) showing routes and population density, with low density areas shown in red. Two routes stand out as servicing primarily low density areas, which are unlikely to ever be productive in a ridership sense. In fact, one of the reasons SacRT struggles to provide efficient transit service is the low-density nature of the county. Though of course agricultural areas north and south of the urbanized area will be low density, there are also large areas of low-density suburb and exurb (sprawl) which will never be successful. Every greenfield development allowed by the county and cities just exacerbates this problem

The population data is from the American Community Survey (ACS) 2014 5-year estimate (S1903), selected by census tract and matched to census tract outlines provided by SACOG, showing residents per square mile. The routes are from the Google Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) provided by SacRT. All routes are shown, including commute hours, low frequency, moderate frequency, and high frequency routes, as well as routes operated by SacRT under contract with others. It would be more useful to identify and/or separate out different kinds of routes, but it takes a while to compile that data, and I’m not quite there yet.

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SacRT service changes

Sacramento Regional Transit (SacRT) has proposed service changes, primarily elimination of routes, most of which would go into effect January 2017, with a few before that and more after than. The proposal is available (summary chart after the jump), and a more detailed analysis is in the Board of Directors agenda (Item 13) for the May 23 meeting. At the May 23 board meeting, the service changes will be an informational item, not a decision. Five open houses on the service changes were scheduled, two of which have occurred, with three yet to go. I attended the open house at SacRT headquarters on May 17.

I was asked for my thoughts on the service changes. Below is a bullet summary, followed by the nerdy details.

  • SacRT should make the boardings dot map available to the public. It is the best information I’ve seen to indicate which routes are productive, and which not, more understandable to the public than the tables of numbers in the proposal. Additionally, all maps showing routes, including of course the system map, should have an indication of the service frequency, either by color or weight. The “all routes looking the same” maps that SacRT currently uses do not communicate this critical piece of information.
  • A portion of savings from elimination or combination of routes should be reinvested in other routes which could be moved from acceptable productivity to higher productivity with frequency, service hours, or routing improvements.
  • Reductions in frequency are counter-productive, usually making a route with challenges into a failing route, which will then be identified in a future round of service changes for elimination.
  • Routes serving low density residential and semi-rural areas should be cut before routes serving moderate to high density residential areas.
  • Combining routes for more efficient coverage, particularly where routes overlap or are very closely parallel, is a good idea.
  • Saturday service should be retained on all routes. Transit-dependent riders who work the usual weekday work week must have service on at last one weekend day so that they can grocery shop, visit friends and family with less mobility, and seek medical care.
  • Routes should not be eliminated for at least two years after creation or significant revision. Time is needed to see ridership trends once people in a community adjust to the service. Specifically, this means: do not eliminate Route 65 Franklin South.
  • The concept that routes should focus on light rail connections rather than radial routes to downtown, or point-to-point routes, should be considered in all route decisions.
  • SacRT should do a complete system re-visioning within the next four years. A series of cuts, and even transit renewal, has left a system that is inefficient and probably unjust. It should be redesigned from scratch.

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RideSacRT app

RideSacRTI have been using the RideSacRT app for a bit of time, and have some initial impressions.

When I started, I could not get the app to accept credit cards, which is the only way to pay for tickets. It rejected three different cards (two credit and one debit). I asked about that via Twitter, and SacRT responded that they were aware of problems with some credit cards. After a couple of days, I tried again, and my main card was accepted.

It is fairly easy to purchase tickets. Tap on the the “buy tickets” icon on the lower left, select the length (single or daily pass) and type (basic or discount), and the quantity, and then “add to cart.” Then select select your card, or enter your card if you have not used it before, and then “pay now” and “purchase.” You can then use your ticket immediately, or later by selecting “ticket manager” from the pull-up menu in the lower right corner.

RideSacRT-TicketWalletThe ticket, once selected for use, lasts for 90 minutes and is good on buses and light rail.

William Burg and others have been discussing whether this 90 minute window offered to smart phone users is fair to people who pay cash, and only get one ride. If there were ticket machines available everywhere, it might be reasonable to require that someone pre-purchase a ticket of some sort, but there are not machines everywhere. People paying cash do slow down boarding of buses, often fumbling for the right change and search for money in various places. This is significant because dwell time, the amount of time a bus spends stopped, the largest determinant of how efficient the route is. This is why transit agencies are experimenting with smart phone apps and transit cards like the Connected Card, coming to SacRT some time this century. I’m not sure how I feel about the equity issue.

The app cannot purchase or store passes. The app is a six month pilot, so it is possible that other capabilities will be added during or at the end of the pilot.

The app also offers routing. It opens with a display of a Google Maps centered on the current location, and start/end fields at the top. But the search routine is seriously flawed. It cannot find street intersections. For example, a search for Folsom and 65th St came up with a location far south on 65th St. It cannot find transit stops unless you know and can enter the exact name of the stop. For example, a search for 65th St Station produces nothing, since the actual name of that station University/65th St. If you type a partial match, a list of suggestions is provided, but that list cannot be scrolled, it pops back to the first two on the list and anything further down (which is likely since the matching is so poor) cannot be selected. For example, type “65th” and see what happens. The app is perfectly happy to match partial names to places completely outside the SacRT service area. For example, Berkeley.

So, my first take is that the ticket purchase is worthwhile, but the routing function is worthless.

Note: I’ve not offered a screenshot of an active ticket because I’m not in Sacramento at the moment, and it would waste a ticket to use one.


SacRT issues and solutions

Another list of ideas for improving SacRT. This was developed as part of my work with 350Sac Transportation Committee, but again, the ideas are mine and not the committee’s.

SacRT issues

  • funding
    • SacRT is the most poorly funded transit system of its size in California; the limited amount provided by Sacramento Measure A (through the Sacramento Transportation Authority) is insufficient to operate a transit system
    • dependence on federal funds from most system enhancements and extensions means that the system has not kept up with either population growth or increased demand
  • leadership
    • the board, composed of only elected officials, provides poor oversight and leadership
    • management is weak, unwilling to explore innovative solutions and accepting of current limitations as permanent
  • light rail
    • has a poor reputation among many commuters
    • no evening service to Folsom
    • no service to American River College
    • high-floor rail cars are inaccessible to many people
  • bus network
    • buses are too infrequent to provide effective service, with no routes meeting the definition of high frequency and only four routes meeting the definition of medium frequency
    • routes deviate into neighborhoods in an attempt to maximize coverage, but the result is a loss of functionality and timeliness
  • land use
    • SacRT is ineffective in large part becuase land use decisions have resulted in an urban/suburban/exurban pattern that cannot effectively be served by a transit system
    • SacRT has little to no input into land use decisions
  • fare card system (ConnectCard)
    • the fare card system has been delayed for more than a year
    • there is no evidence that the fare card system will address equity issues such as low-income users without bank accounts and credit cards being able to purchase cards and passes
  • bike parking
    • the lack of secure bike parking at light rail stations and major bus stops reduces transit use and usability
    • SacRT has refused to provide on-demand bike lockers at stations, though Folsom has provided them at stations within the city

SacRT solutions

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